I’m posting this on Christmas day and so I want to make it somewhat on topic, the problem is I’m not a Christian so I don’t celebrate Christmas. Beyond that, I despise the wanton waste and destruction that Christmas has become and I’ve been preaching against it for a long time. But it’s not good to only be against something without being for something better, so today I want to talk about what I believe is the true meaning of Christmas and how each of us can celebrate it whatever our faith or even if we are atheists/agnostics.
If you want to celebrate the life of Christ, the best way to do it is to live like he suggested we live (I believe it’s critically important to learn from all the Great Master Teachers of the past and even present). We can argue endlessly over his words but there’s no getting around the way he lived and the actions he told us to take like these:
41 “Then he will say to those on his left…. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matthew 25:41-45
By his life and by his words Jesus demonstrated a need to reach out and care for the neediest, worst, lowest and least of our society. Today I want to talk about panhandlers, the beggars we all see constantly on our daily trips through town, and suggest we all start a new tradition of giving gifts to the truly needy instead of to each other who already have so much. I suggest you consider to take whatever you are planning to spend at Christmas and save that to give away throughout the year to those in need. For example, if you were going to spend $365 in gifts, explain to your friends and family that you are giving it to the poor instead. Then get out $30 at the beginning of each month and give that away to the poor either $1 a day to a beggar or as a gift to some charity that works with the homeless.
Giving to the needy is a very complex and confusing topic so I’m not passing judgment on you however you’ve decided to handle it. Many people sincerely believe that giving food or money to beggars is counter-productive and actually does them more harm than good—and they can make a good case supporting that view. I’m not going to try to change your mind but I do want to present both sides of the argument and tell you what I’ve decided to do and why. This is already a long post so it’ll be in two parts. Today will be my philosophy and the next one will be specific reasons why I give to beggars.
Reasons NOT to give to Beggars:
- They’re scam artists. We’ve all heard the stories of people who stand all day on the corner holding up signs begging for help and then go get in their Mercedes Benz and drive home. I suspect the stories are exaggerated, but there’s no question that some beggars are scam artists. Unless you take the time to follow them all day, there’s no way to be sure which are legit and which are deceiving you
- Some beggars are making careers out of begging rather than work. The common feeling about them is, “I’ve had to work for everything I’ve got and they should too.” It’s hard to argue against that.
- They’ll use it to buy drugs and alcohol. Again, there’s no question that happens a lot. If you give a panhandler money, fairly often it will probably go toward drugs and alcohol.
- There are too many of them. There are so many of them, and most of us are low-income ourselves, so it’s easy to just pretend they aren’t there. If we can’t know which ones are truly needy, and we can’t give to all of them anyway, it’s easy to just ignore them all and give nothing to any of them.
- There are already systems in place to care for them. My money could better help in other places.
- Some of them might be criminals looking for easy prey to victimize.
All those are good reasons to not give to beggars and I’m not going to in any way judge you for that decision or try to change your mind. What I am going to do is tell you why I’ve decided that I will give to beggars and tell you my thinking in reaching that decision. What you do with that information is entirely up to you.
In this post I’m going to give you the single most compelling reason I give to beggars no matter who they are or what they do with the money. Then in another post I’ll answer each of the above objections with my conclusion about them.
Life Needs Meaning: A Life of Service and Love
For me to be truly happy, I believe my life must have a meaning. I think we all know that meeting our basic survival necessities is essential to happiness, but it’s nowhere near enough to make us truly happy. The only meaning that I’ve found that brought me peace, joy and contentment is a life lived in love and service to others. I’ve tried many other things but that’s the only one that has worked. These are some other things I tried:
- Finding happiness through Pleasure. No matter how good it felt, it was never enough. As soon as the pleasure of the moment wore off I was left empty and hollow and needing more to feel better again. It was an endless and pointless pursuit that never in any way satisfied me.
- Finding happiness through Work. At one point I decided I would work my way up the company ladder and gain more money, power and prestige. But that didn’t work any better than pleasure. It was just a lot more work and hassle without any reward. I know many people find great reward in it, but I got none—so I went back to just being a worker.
- Finding happiness through Money. I love shopping and spending money! The phrase “shopaholic” or “shopping therapy” perfectly apply to me! However, just like everything else I tried, I found no lasting satisfaction in it. As soon as I had something new the magic of it wore off and I had to shop for and buy the next thing to get it back
- Finding happiness through family. I was married twice and both brought me nothing but misery. I did have two children which is truly a great thing but I came to the point of self-awareness to know that I loved them for what they could do for me and not unconditionally. It wasn’t until I learned to love unconditionally that they became a source of deep happiness.
The first 45 years of my life were dedicated to finding happiness where it’s impossible to find it—big surprise that I was never happy! When my unhappiness reached a point of wrecking my life I was finally willing to do anything to find it. I was very fortunate to find a program that offered me everything I needed.
The living, breathing, heart and soul of the spiritual program I follow is unconditional love—the kind of unconditional love that Jesus describes in the paragraphs above. When I finally took an honest look at myself I found that to some degree my every action with other people was based on selfishness. I was being good to you, for my own gain. Behind my every relationship was an “I’ll love you if ….”
- you look good on my arm.
- you treat me the way I want to be treated.
- you never wrong me.
- you make me proud of you.
- you never embarrass me.
- you never annoy me.
What I learned is that’s not love at all, that’s self-absorption and self-seeking in the guise of love and my life was totally full of it. The program I follow has a code to guide our lives by and it’s very simple, “Love and Tolerance of others is our code” At the end of every night it suggests I do an inventory of myself and one of the questions I need to ask is “Was I loving and Kind toward all.” If not, do I need to make an amends to make it right?
The program I follow describes itself this way. “Simple but not easy, it meant the destruction of self-centeredness.” And that’s the goal of everything in the program; the switch from being “me-centered” to “we-centered.” Of course the reason I follow the program is so I can be happy which is also selfish. There’s no getting around it, there’s always some self in every action, but as I followed the program with my whole heart, it changed me. Even though there is always the selfish desire for a good life even in attempting to be self-less, to a surprising degree there is actually an honest desire for the good of others without the thought of reward. I still fail daily, sometimes hourly, but I claim spiritual progress and not spiritual perfection.
So the bottom line is when I see a beggar, even if there is only a 50-50 chance I’m doing a really good thing by helping them (I’m certain the percentage is much higher) I feel like unconditional love demands that I do it. The fact that they may be deceiving and stealing from me doesn’t offset the demand of unconditional love to feed the least in our society. In my opinion, unconditional love simply doesn’t walk by someone who is starving and do nothing, so neither do I.
Science Agrees with the Need for Self-Transcendence
In 1943 a psychologist named Abraham Maslow published a paper on his theory of developmental psychology in which he proposed that humans had a hierarchy of needs and that as soon as one was met people moved on to fulfill the next level. He developed 5 levels of needs beginning with basic physical needs and moving up to the need to be the very best you could be which he termed as self-actualization. His theory remains popular and widely accepted today.
In the 1970s, after a lifetime of study, he added a 6th level to the hierarchy of needs that he called Self-Transcendence which he described as liberation from egocentricity. It’s the move from being primarily interested in yourself and becoming equally concerned with the well-being of others. Unlike the other needs, be believed you could achieve Self-Transcendence at any time in your life and at any stage of growth.
I believe that the act of consciously connecting with a beggar by giving him a gift of food or money is an act of Self-Transcendence that will elevate every aspect of your life and set you on a path to a better life. At first, I found it was a gift based on guilt and embarrassment, I was giving for the reward I could get of not feeling guilty or hoping it would build up my Karma. But as I made a determined effort to make it a gift based on unconditional love, it changed me.
In my next post on this topic I’ll tell you how I answer the above reasons not to give to beggars.
Interesting model for understanding enlightenment. The few times I experienced what could be considered self-transcendence, there were overwhelming feelings I could only describe as something between love and grief. Powerful, yet painful. And totally worth it.
My take on panhandlers, which my city has more than its share, is it’s a good opportunity to practice unconditonal love, giving the person the benefit of the doubt. I consider stories about welfare people using food stamps to buy liquor then getting into their luxury SUV as excuses by people not to part with their tight-fisted money. On the other hand, I would think twice about giving to a guy in front of a liquor store, especially if he says he wants to buy a happy meal down the block.
On another note, your previous posts on consumerism reminded me of an outspoken preacher, and I finally remembered his name: The Reverend Billy C Wirtz. His website: http://www.revbilly.com/
Jim, the little I’ve read about Maslows understanding of self-transcendence does sound a lot like the Buddhist concept of enlightenment. I like the Buddhist phrase about enlightenment “Before enlightenment, it’s chop wood and carry water, after enlightenment it’s chop wood and carry water.” I think there is way too much wu wu made out of it.
We think a lot alike on beggars. I’ve checked out Rev Billy, very interesting guy!
Yesterday “chop wood, carry water” for me was feeding the homeless men at a shelter on 10th street in Tucson with my Buddhist Center here. Yes, many of them straggled in out of the dark and rain staggering under alcohol and with shame in their eyes, but their faces lit up with gratitude when greeted with our smiles and hot food. We can never judge the path another has to walk. All we can do is love. It was the best Christmas I could have had.
Many blessings to you in the New Year, Bob.
Blessings upon you, m.a.; you are a gift to human kind! Thank you so much for actually doing what so many of us are thinking!
m.a. I bow my head to you my friend!
I too can’t pass judgement on any other human being!
If it’s just the thought of beggars buying alcohol or drugs that stops you, you can always hand out food coupons, like to McDonalds or even some grocery stores have gift cards. You can also give your leftovers when you leave a restaurant, extra clothes, etc.
That’s a good suggest Alan! It solves that whole issue.
Alan summed up the main reason people turn their backs on beggars. We want to prioritize their needs making pleasure (alcohol/drugs for them) last.
Socks and like that are always good, too.
Thanks Calvin, very good idea.
Best. Post. Ever.
Wow! Thanks jonthebru, I had actually expected some resistance on this one as too religious or too liberal. I know a lot of people who are really opposed to the homeless and strongly oppose giving to them.
Bob, I’ll take this as a message that I did what I should this evening. Let me explain. A location involved with that spiritual thing held an event yesterday and today. When I was there yesterday, someone gave me three crocheted blankets. Very nice, but I had no way to get them home yesterday. I already have a blanket, but I figured the people where I’m staying could use them, and it would give me a little security in staying there. Anyhow, when I went to pick the blankets up this evening, a lady told me she’d used one of them last night to sleep on the floor right there. It seems someone is starting a women’s shelter in that building. Those nice blankets are still there. I gave them to her for the shelter. Thank you so much for (unknowingly) telling me how right that was.
You’re a good man Calvin R!
True spirit of Christmas! You rock!
I agree mf, this is much closer to what christmas should be, and I’m not a christian.
I love this post, I was thinking the exact same thoughts at work today as I sat there on Christmas day. All this consumerism and all this greed when there are plenty of people that could actually use some real supplies and help out there… it’s a real shame.
Myddy, I consider it a tragedy that in a land overflowing with wealth that people are on the streets begging and being ignored.
As soon as you say that everybody wants to point their fingers at the government but that’s one finger pointed away and 4 pointed back at me. The solution lies in us as individuals, not in the government. In fact if anything that is the problem, waiting for the government to fix everything while we do nothing.
Good stuff Bob.
Many people don’t recognize that the teachings of Mr. Christ are liberal.
Most of the teachings of Jesus the Christ go against todays culture, or take them way out of context. Some people think that because Jesus warned people of wars and to have a sword, that He was saying that we should go to war on the smallest accord. While I despise violence and wish that weapons of any sort were never necessary (some things are necessary, but not necessarily right).
Each of us have been given free will to choose to go about life whichever way. A life in service to others is so much better than a life in service to ourselves.
I wish that today we could exterminate hunger and all the evil and bad things in this world. I at least try to do my part, albeit small part, to make it a better place to live.
Douglas, we can’t save the world, but we can affect the person right in front if us. Sounds like you’re doing good!
Very wise Douglas!
There’s no getting around that John. In his day he would have been an ultra left-wing liberal.
Great post Bob. Unconditional love is the best part of being human. When you can let go of your expectations and just enjoy the act of giving is when you experience a joyous lift to your soul. I wish you a wonderful New Year, from my family to yours, Robin
Thanks Robin! In my experience, expectations are the number one obstacle to human happiness!
Bob..I agree with Jonthebru!
Great post, Bob. It doesn’t matter if you are a Buddhist or a Nudist, I think helping each other is a Good Thing. Trying to overcome egocentricity by helping others is a worthwhile effort for me as well. My simple rule is: Helping others helps me.
When it comes to beggars, if my gut reaction is “they need some assistance” then I give them some. If they give off a “gamer” vibe I don’t. If not sure, then I give them the benefit of the doubt. Very quick and simple! It has taken some practice but I am now correct 87.6% of the time. (j/k)
I also know that I have certainly received a lot of non-judgmental assistance in my life, especially out here on the road, and am glad that I can now pass it on.
Colvin, I think that is a great system!! You can’t really go too far wrong by following your gut.
Best post ever Bob. Whether we know it or not searching for happiness is our number one priority. Helping others find the formula that works for finding happiness is a fine craft indeed.
Problem: Happiness is temporary and never a standing still and forever full existence. It’s also a decision and not a result.
Martin, I agree totally, we’re all just looking for a way to be happy and some of us are going about it rather poorly. Happiness had always been very elusive to me, until I stopped trying to get it for myself and tried getting it for others. That did the trick.
I see a guy sitting at the corner with an empty 2 gal gas can & a sign saying ‘Need gas” I go right on by.
Some guy comes up to me when I’ve pulled into the gas station with a 2 gal can in hand & tells me he’s on the road, broke and needs gas to get home then points to his ride, I’ll pump him a gallon or two then fill my tank.
True story & I’m not sure why….
I especially like your thoughts on trying to find happiness and the empty ways we go about it. Good post Bob. I find gratitude and being thankful go a long way in helping me be content. I also agree we must be kind and generous as an outgrowth of our own blessings.
Keep up the good work Bob.
Thanks Pete! I think you are very wise to use gratitude as a way to find contentment.
Thanks Pete! I think you are very wise to use gratitude as a way to find contentment.
I give the money if I have it. It’s not about what they do with it. It’s about how it makes me feel. What if I bought you a nice dinner for your birthday and you could only eat half and you couldn’t take the rest home. Would it be a waste? No, I gave a beautiful gift and still spent the money. Money is just a piece of paper.
Thanks laqueeta, very wise thoughts!
I agree with you. Those same reasons not to help have gone through my mind at one time or another, and sometimes at the same time. I keep some extra food on hand to hand out when I see them. I don’t give out money, mainly because of the chance they are scamming. I will give money if i don’t have any food on me. Some friends and i have started to teach people to do for themselves. Some people need help up. Some people want to work and part of us helping others is to help them get back on there feet.
Those are very good tips Douglas!
Bob, I think your thinking is really flawed. First I will always help someone in need. But will not give a Street Person Money! However I will always offer to take them to lunch, dinner or offer to assist them in obtaining lodging. Of all the pan handlers that have approached me only one has taken me up on lunch. While we were having lunch together he admitted had I given him money he would have spent it on drugs. As for the “need gas” when I offered to fill the can he walked away.
After reading your post I think that you are looking to make yourself feel good rather than help, or very misguided. In reality you are making the persons situation worse. Reason being…you are contributing so that they can continue their addiction whatever it may be.
My opinion is that money would do more good sent to the Salvation Army or organizations of that nature. As they try to help those that are making an effort to improve and kick their habit…whatever it might be.
Just my opinion.
I very much favor offering food, gasoline, bus passes, or whatever fits the situation rather than money, although I give money when I feel moved to do that. However, my view of the charities claiming to help the homeless is skeptical. Some of them actually help, but others exist only to enforce their moral views on others or to make a living for the operators. The ones that help are an investment in your fellow man; the others are a waste or worse. Check what they do before putting your money into those.
Also, please note that many shelters are over full and waiting lists of weeks or months. Telling someone to go to the shelter may be an insult and nothing more.
Calvin, one of the point I’m going to make later is that we only apply that close scrutiny to the poor how they spend the money.
WE don’t bat an eye at buying from China but they are doing horrible things to their people, a lot worse things than hurting themselves. We send lots of money to the middle east where they treat women like cattle and kill them for being raped. We buy from many corporations that are doing terrible things. But give a buck to a guy who might buy a beer with it–no way!
“I think that you are looking to make yourself feel good…..”
Pretty much sums it up.
Buffalo Bob, I totally understand and respect your viewpoint. I think our life experiences have probably been totally different and had I had yours I would think as you do and if you had mine perhaps you would think differently than you do. There is some truth to the old saying to not judge until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
I’m going to do another post on this topic and I’ll go into it in more detail.
Have always appreciated your thoughts even when we disagree. You always challenge me to think! In general, I agree with your premise of giving. I believe that the two purposes for money is to live and to give. However, I would disagree a bit with your practice (so far as you’ve posted about it). I don’t think it’s loving to help someone continue a self-destructive behavior. I also don’t believe in the guilt trip “why can’t you love me for who I am?” I can love you for who you are without participating in your self-destructive behavior. There are people who are poor and need help who are willing to help themselves and I don’t mind helping them. But for a guy to stand on the side of the road with a sign asking for help when he could work is just plain wrong. In our town there are people who hold advertising signs on the side of the road and I’m sure they’re not making much more than minimum wage but they are working. If a guy can hold a sign saying he is homeless and hungry then he can hold an advertising sign.
I know one could argue that there is no way to know for sure who is truly needy and who isn’t. Maybe so, but I choose to give my giving dollars to charities and people I KNOW are going to do good with it. I don’t have much to give away so I want to be sure that what I give makes a difference for people who are willing to work to make their lives better.
Just my take on it.
Steve, lots of people (maybe the majority) think like you and I can’t disagree. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the world of the self-destructive and based on that experience I look at it very differently than you do.
I’ve also spent time in the world of the mentally ill and the truly needy, I have friends who stand on the corner with signs. Knowing them, I also think very differently than you do.
But I totally understand where you are coming and thanks for sharing it.
I so appreciate your posts and especially your willingness to put yourself out there and honestly share a bit of yourself, even if people are going to disagree. Not something my thin skin could always handle, so thank you! I once heard a quote once from a program person when he bought a drink for an ex programmer at a restaurant who he saw drinking. I was quite surprised, but he smiled and said, “If you can’t help ’em up, help ’em down!” Lol! “Good one'” I thought and have always remembered.
So if they’re buying drugs or food, that’s their choice, but either way………..Your intention shines as love, and that warms my heart, so you’ve given twice.
Elizabeth, I like your (and your programmer friends) thinking. That’s exactly how I think as well.
Nearly all of us are doing things to make it through the day, and for some people those things are ugly like drugs and alcohol, for others they are acceptable like over-buying, over-working or over-eating.
I am in position to judge another person about what he does to make it through the day.
like I said I do not belive in god , but I do agree with the helping of others doing favors for others in need I myself have been homeless still somewhat am homeless but I myself feel it is OK to give a bit of money to some body yes I do it only when I can afford to because I know life a bitch at times I know it.s not fair so any way I like your thinking on helping others during the holidays or whenever u can help your fellow human being any time u do something for anybody in need feels good happy new year to all !!!
Joe, thank you very much for kind comment. You and I think very much alike!
Thanks for the thoughtful post, Bob. You are so very brave to discuss these types of issues. Once when I was much younger and working in a downtown area of a city I came out of a restaurant with a “to-go” box. It was leftovers from a very large meal. As I was walking back to work a man approached me and said, “I’m very hungry. Could you spare some food?” I immediately gave him the box. I didn’t need it–he did. That changed me forever. I started noticing other people more and realizing that I had way more than I needed when there were many people who didn’t have enough to meet basic needs. And while it may be that there are scam artists (sometimes it’s easy to tell) giving goods is a no-brainer. A blanket or coat for those that are cold. Food for those that are hungry, etc. We can all do more to help others. Sometimes a smile and friendly greeting for those that usually go unnoticed is a great gift.
Thanks for that great story Lightfoot! When I lived in Anchorage Alaska I used to go out to garage sales and find cots, hats and gloves for sale cheap and I made it a habit to buy them and take them to the homeless shelter where they would get handed out to anyone who needed them.
I don’t know how any of them survived the winter there but anyone who thinks they have a good life is nuts, that must have been unspeakable misery.
well said Bob 🙂 tend to agree with you and as always the comments are also pretty revealing. I tend to agree with you and there are times I feel moved to help others, I do so, regardless of what their life choices may be or where it has brought them.. I an barely figure out my own life, I dont feel I have the right to judge weather or not their choices are right for them! 🙂
If there was a “like” button, I’d hit it! Well said!
You and me both Nemo! I’ve messed my life up pretty good and come pretty close to homeless. I’m in no position to pass judgement on anyone else!
I was just curious of your new dog, as I was used to seeing pictures of Homer on a weekly basis. just curious that is all.
Hi Rick, Cody is doing really well with me. For quite a while now my posts haven’t really been anything he could be in so you haven’t been seeing him. His time will come!
Interesting perspective, for myself coming from a country that has a huge safety net for people and plenty of help available for those that need it, I would never give money to a panhandler. I have approached people on the street and tried to direct them to our beautiful multi-million dollar homeless shelter where they can get food, shelter, clothes and help finding a job. They don’t want to go, too many rules. I learned a long time ago that some people want to live a destructive lifestyle and don’t want help. For myself, I think my money is better spent donating to social agencies especially those that help children from 3rd world countries. Canadian people on the streets are able to get help, they don’t want to. I can’t speak for the situation in the US.
We have homeless shelters here, mostly with long waiting lists, some with requirements about religion.
Lynn, I understand and respect your perspective. I can’t speak for Canada but here in the USA there are lots of holes in our safety net. What I suspect is true of both countries a fairly large percentage of the homeless suffer from mental illness who are off their meds. They were born that way and they will die that way to no fault of their own, But the illness will not let them fit in with any kind of normal society, so they are on the streets.
We each have to make our own decision about what to do about them.
what Bob said. Plus, what I have heard about shelters in Vancouver – crowded, you can get robbed in there at night, and you have to leave in the morning. Social housing – leaky, moldy, pest ridden, with possible violent neighbors. So it makes sense that some would rather brave the streets. And I give when I feel like it, not because I think the person will use it in some worthy way or is not a scammer. That is not what giving is about.
I agree Ming!
… mind you, I do understand about getting annoyed when you are being scammed. My parents have always given generously all their lives. I was in Vietnam with them one time when they were giving to street children, an older girl with a little boy strapped to her back. After giving them money, we realized that the whole plaza was filled with little pairs of kids identical to the ones we had just given to. They were annoyed. But it does not stop them from giving. I don’t think they understand about mental illness in North America though.
Ming, no one wants to be ripped-off, it just sets off that anger in all of us. We each have to make up our own mind on how we deal with it.
So, after I read this post and the comments, by coincidence some one sent me this link today. Here is what one homeless guy did with $100. I think you all might enjoy it.
Thanks for sending that Colvin, I had heard of this but didn’t have the link. The timing is pretty amazing all right. For those who don’t know a Youtuber gave a homeless guy a $100 bill and then secretly videotaped him. He went straight to a liquor store!! But…. he came out with a bunch of food and took it and handed out to all the other homeless people in the area. He was a true saint!
The closest most of us will ever come to divinity is when we help others.
Very, very true CAE.
I just figure I may have to give to people who don’t really need it or to cheats in order to help the ones who really do need it.
JudyMae, that’s exactly what I think too!
Bob, well done. You help set a fine example when it comes to demonstrating “compassion without judgement.”
I hope to learn from your example, and I have a long way to go.
The system we exist within creates inequality. To think for one moment that most people can choose to work hard, make better choices or suffer on to better reward is ridiculous if not sadistic.
My 0.02 anyway.
Best. Post. Ever.
Ron, I have to agree totally! The excesses of capitalism are starting to come home to roost and things are going to get steadily worse for all of us.
Love your blog! Yes, yes, yes! I was raised catholic, then choose non denominational Christianity for a couple of decades and then tragedy struck, causing me to question and seek answers because my whole belief system was knocked out from beneath me. That along with observing the majority of so called Christians in today’s America (don’t know about other countries versions), thanks to years of bible study, I am amazed how many are so disconnected from Christs example in the life he lead and his words he spoke (Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes). Another factor was two of my friends whom I know to be good honest people, had near death experiences, that verified other things I had read and heard about life after life and our spirits. (www.iands.org or http://www.nderf.org) My conclusion is that our primary purposes here during our life in human form, is to learn to love and be of service to others. We are all have weaknesses to overcome (self centered ness or ego being number one) and gifts and talents to use for that end. Of course mans ego is a huge barrier to unconditional love. And judgement of others seems to accompany the ego. So when I see someone in apparent need, I try to give what I can at the moment. Maybe it’s just to look them in the eyes and smile and say hello. Maybe a bottle of water. Maybe half of my lunch. Maybe money. I often let people know they can call 2-1-1, anywhere in the USA and that number connects you to social services in your area (or county where you are calling from). Need a food bank or soup kitchen or shelter…they will tell you where to go or give you resources to follow up on. Sometimes I give my business card for someone looking for a job, as I run a caregiving company. Then I leave it to God and the universe and that individual to do the rest. They can follow up or not. I don’t need to know who what where when…Jesus fed and healed first, he didn’t turn down anyone’s plea for help. No strings attached. He also didn’t take them home with him! Lol! He also took off for the mountains and lived in solitude for restoration! The Jesus that walked the earth is not the same Jesus most Christians (I know and see) worship today. I’m sure He weeps for them on a daily basis. Love IS the answer. So whatever I do, and how I decide, is if what I’m doing is in alignment with love.
Thank you for your beautiful comment Nancy, I totally agree with everything you said. Love IS the answer!
Great post about a topic that’s been on my mind the past few months. We recently moved back to Eugene, OR after being on the road (RVing) full timing for the past seven years.
I see a lot of people on the street corners with signs asking for hand-outs. 30 years ago it was a few, now it’s become a flood with young males and females adding to the numbers. Frankly, I am surprised, sad, pissed, and bewildered. I remember I used to have to step over the bodies sleeping on the sidewalks of San Francisco. In all of these situations I know there are many homeless shelters with food and beds available. I worked at them and donated money to the cause. I know they are available and beneficial because my own son was homeless for two years and spent his time in a shelter called the “mission” here in Eugene while he was sorting things out. It was tough for us not to rescue him and rent an apt but I realized that he has his own journey. There’s a fine line between giving and enabling. Some communities, such as Folsom, CA (according to my daughter who lives there), bus the homeless to Sacramento where there are shelters available.
Frankly, I am all over the place on this question going from “get a job” to “but for the Grace of God I could be there.” It’s a social problem that’s getting bigger and won’t go away soon. I have done what you suggested and felt good about it. No judgments. And, I relapse and want them all rounded up and bused up to the state capital and let the state handle it. I don’t want to see them in my community. For the time being, count me in the “confused” column. For all of the wealth in this country I just don’t get it.
What a great response to your post! I’m VERY surprised we’re not hearing from more people with reasons not to give to panhandlers. I think after the first few responses supporting your view they may be holding back? I for one would like to hear the other side
I’m surprised too Scott. When this topic comes up on the forum it’s about 10 to 1 against the homeless; some very hateful stuff. I’m not sure why it didn’t happen here. I think because I made their case for them it took some wind out of their sails.
Sometimes it’s better just to be quiet.
No doubt that’s true Opa.
Although I believe we all benefit from everyone’s input
Great post 🙂
Thanks for sharing.I came across this blog while searching for plans and ideas on building a cab-over camper.
I really appreciate what is being shared here. I would sometimes give to others in the street and sometimes avoid them. Using some of the same reasons to avoid that you write. However I always came away with some thoughts of something similar to guilt! Maybe not in a way that the word guilt is usually thought, but as if a certain opportunity was just lost. Maybe a chance to grow into a better acceptance of me? Yes a self interest indeed! The interesting thing is that
I give about 50% of the time! So if the odds are that only 50% of the ones I gave to are truly in need of food and shelter, than I may have just limited it to 25%!
I guess if we were to look at it, and most thins we do in life as playing the percentages, we might be better off to be a professional gambler “Homeless in Las Vega”!
Yea, I am giving, what I can, whenever I can, as much for me as for you!
Bill, it’s become such a cliche but you can’t go wrong following the old advice, Follow Your Heart!
Sounds like you are pretty good at it!
If people start giving to the needy, one day there will be no needy.